Open Letter: Mr. President, The Labor Law Does Not Allow Arbitrary Deduction In The Salary

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Dear Mr. President;

We want to use this time to congratulate you, President George Manneh Weah, on your ascendency to the highest office in our country and for your commitment to seeing the people of Liberia lifted from poverty through your “Pro-Poor Agenda”.

Mr. President, we commend you on the steps you are taking towards achieving your goals and dreams and want to take this time to introduce to you the Association of Liberian Human Resources Professionals (ALHRP), a network of practicing human resources professionals across all sectors of Liberia. We are proud to note that we have more than 100 registered members and 50 associate members. One of our goals is to encourage standardization of processes across sectors, policy reviews on legislations, as well as capacity strengthening of our members.

Mr. President, we listened with keen interest on April 25, 2018, when you mentioned several measures aimed at achieving the government’s pro poor agenda, including the reduction of salaries for Ministers of Government and heads of autonomous agencies across the Executive branch of Government- with a 10% reduction across the board for all Cabinet Ministers. The decision of the Cabinet went on to include civil & public servants who earn above U$1,000.00 with the implementation of this decision effective May 2018 payroll.

We recognize your effort in trying to  identify “means to support national development that will impact the lives of the poor people and to ensure that money is not wasted” [1], and as an attempt to support you in the process, we would like to remind you of the legal instruments that we have been working with and the present or future potential effects.

The current Decent Work Act (DWA) of 2016 states:

§ 16.5 Deductions from wages     a) Subject to this section, an employer shall pay the full amount of remuneration due to an employee, without deduction, whenever it becomes payable to the  employee.     b) An employer may deduct sums from remuneration due to an employee:     i) for any lawful purpose; and     ii) with the written agreement of the employee, provided that an employee  may revoke or vary a written request once in every pay period, where after  the employer shall stop or vary the deductions concerned as the case may  be.     c) Deductions from an employee’s remuneration by agreement with the  employee:     i) shall not total more than one third of the employee’s remuneration; and     ii) may only be made in payment of:     (1) rent in respect of accommodation supplied by the employer;   (2) goods sold by the employer;   (3) a loan advanced by the employer; or   (4) trade union dues, in accordance with section § 37.3.    

Mr. President, the Labor Law does not allow arbitrary deduction in the salary of any employee without the employee’s written consent. To make any deduction in the salary of an employee outside of their written consent would be in violation of the Law.

Additionally, the Civil Service Standing Order (2012) which covers all civil servants in Liberia also does not allow reduction in salary of a civil servant outside of disciplinary purposes. The Standing Orders (4.2.8) states “The Appointing Authority may reduce the salary of an employee  for disciplinary purposes. The Appointing Authority shall state  whether a reduction in salary is permanent or temporary and if  temporary  shall  give  the  conditions  or  date  upon  which  the  salary is to be restored. Such statement shall be in writing to the  employee  with  a  copy  to  the  DirectorGeneral  prior  to  the  effective date of such salary reduction. “

Mr. President, without reason of specific disciplinary purpose, there cannot be a reduction in salary. Even then, it has to be clearly stated in writing the duration of the reduction in salary. Again, only for reason of disciplinary purposes.

Mr. President, Liberia is also a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and is bound by the various conventions, as such we bring your attention to the specific one on Protection of Wages  -CO96-No 95., article 8.1 1. Deductions from wages shall be permitted only under conditions and to the extent prescribed by national laws or regulations or fixed by collective agreement or arbitration award.

Currently, our research has not discovered any national law that supports arbitrary deduction in salary of employees. Anything outside of that would contravene our laws.

Your Excellency, accepting that reduction in salaries is not legal without the consent of ordinary employees, the case of Presidential appointees may be different, where appointees may be duty bound to accept a policy decision by their appointing authority to reduce their salaries.

It would be prudent to note that employees hired within the mainline Government Ministries, who are hired through the Civil Service Agency (CSA) are considered Civil Servants. They are governed by the framework of the Civil Service Standing Orders, whilst employees hired by State Owned Enterprises (SoEs), Agencies, Authorities are considered Public Servants and are governed by the Decent Work Law (Labor Law of Liberia).

For further clarification, the Standing Orders defines a civil servant  as “A person of Liberian citizenship, above the age of 17 years who has, through the merit-based employment system and by passing the civil service examination, been employed in a position in the Civil Service.”

Whilst a public servant is categorized as “A person employed and compensated by the Liberian Government, with the exception of one subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

Your Excellency, these are two separate, distinct categories of employees.

Mr, President, beyond the legal issues which we have herein raised, our collective experience as HR professionals shows that slashing salaries in the face of rising prices and overall costs of living without compensating for the disparity through the provision of other incentives could be a disincentive to improving productivity, lead to further brain drain in the public sector, and may adversely impact upon your stated desire to fight corruption in the public bureaucracy.

We, therefore, appeal to you, Mr. President, to restrict the salary reduction to Presidential appointees who provided consent during the last meeting of your Cabinet. Please spare the struggling doctors, engineers, administrators, technicians and other professionals in the public service who have not given their legal consent to deduct from their salaries. These employees are working diligently to make the country better and to help your government to succeed.

Please be assured, Mr. President, of the continued support and willingness of the HR Association to work with your administration to improve the conditions of workers and the working environment in the country.

We applaud you, Mr. President, for upholding the rule of law in this sweet land of liberty.

Yours Sincerely,

Jonah Soe Kotee

President of the Association of Liberian Human Resource Professional (ALHRP)

[email protected]

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